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Why Marx Was Right

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  3,367 ratings  ·  342 reviews
In this combative, controversial book, Terry Eagleton takes issue with the prejudice that Marxism is dead and done with. Taking ten of the most common objections to Marxism—that it leads to political tyranny, that it reduces everything to the economic, that it is a form of historical determinism, and so on—he demonstrates in each case what a woeful travesty of Marx's own t ...more
Hardcover, 258 pages
Published April 12th 2011 by Yale University Press
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Nacho The proletariat does exist. It exists, in smaller numbers, in the First World and it is the vast majority of the population in the Third World, where …moreThe proletariat does exist. It exists, in smaller numbers, in the First World and it is the vast majority of the population in the Third World, where billions of people work themselves to death to produce the commodities that flood the markets. The proletariat is now larger as a class than at any other point in history.

Respectfully: if you believe that the proletariat does not exist any more, either you are confused about what the proletariat is or confuse your immediate reality with the reality of the rest of the world.

The book does not address the disappearance of the proletariat because it has not disappeared.(less)

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May 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Marxists, Lefties, Anyone who cares
This is a fabulous book. It’s not an apology for Marxism but rather a reinvigoration of the original philosophy of the man, a philosophy which has been unfairly maligned over the last century due mainly to the twin state-capitalist monstrosities built in its name by Stalin and Mao. There is nothing in Marx’s writing that leads one to think of state terror and closed societies, quite the contrary.

In this book, Eagleton takes a different, commonly held criticism about Marxism for each chapter head
Randal Samstag
Dec 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, philosophy
Ever need a handy compendium to use when you were in discussions with tiresome right-wingers about how Marx and Marxism was a “Fatal Conceit” or “The Road to Serfdom”? (The quoted references are, of course, to anti-socialist tracts by F. A. Hayek.) Well, if you live in the United States, there would be plenty of individuals who would so debate you. But then again, probably not so many of you would want to. But, for those who would, Terry Eagleton has provided such a compendium. His new book, Why ...more
David M
Thing is, Eagleton tries to have it both ways when he says that the great thing about Marxism, more than any other theoretical system, has been its practical impact on the world and its influence on historical movements, but then goes on to completely disavow the most obvious, prominent case of this; Eagleton claims that what happened in Russia last century actually had nothing to do with Marxism, Stalin wasn't really a Marxist, etc.

In my view, Zizek displays superior intellectual honesty in his
W.D. Clarke
2019 Re-read and review:

First off: I could do with a less clownishly strident, destined-to-be-polarizing cover. I already own the more sedate earlier hardcover, and this one is fated to be given to a friend!

Seriously now, though: this book aims to engage a particular kind of reader: one for whom Marx is neither an unquestioned (and unquestionable) star in the firmament of European intellectual history, nor an unreadable, unfathomable, aberrant abomination and father of unspeakable horror. The po
Helen Razer
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have no notion why the publisher's sought to sell this perfectly reasonable book as "controversial". It is in no way shocking. It is a measured account of a very good thinker. It does contain some of Eagleton's (chiefly) decent jokes, which I always enjoyed as a student when reading his famous, and useful, companion to literary criticism. Otherwise, nothing outrageous to see here but a great synopsis for the Marxist beginner.
This is a marvellous introduction to Marxist thought. I imagine it w
Nov 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining. Never imagined I'd write that about a text on Marxism, but Eagleton writes with an urbane erudition not to be missed. Not only does he effectively dismantle many popular misconceptions about Marxism, he does so with dry but ultimately sympathetic wit. No angry revolutionary rhetoric but a great deal of wisdom and savvy that convinces the reader of several very important truths. The phrase "socialism or barbarism," is shown to be, despite the mind blowing technological advances capi ...more
Jan 05, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. The author shows his knowledge on Marxism and he answers a number of frequently asked questions concerning Marxism in the 21st century societies, he gives out understandable, reasonable explanation as much as he can. However, despite the author's reader-friendly and humorous tone, Marxism is complicated, it's still difficult to understand (you have to have basic knowledge about the topics to understand this book) and sometime the author sounds a bit too smug and sure of himself (I'm n ...more
Tim Pendry

This is an Apologia for the unwitting founder of the latest but possibly not the last of the great ‘herd’ religions.

The book itself is not a complete failure. If you are studying Marxism, it would be a good text that summarises the best case for it much as one might go to Tertullian or Augustine to get the best case for Early Christianity.

Similarly, no babies should be thrown out with the bathwater of Communist history. Marx can be seen as analyst and as historical fantasist. As analyst, he off
Sep 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2012
The most refreshing and legitimately optimistic book I’ve probably ever read. Eagleton deftly rescues Marx from the dustbin to which right-wingers, postmodernists, silly liberals and capitalist triumphalists have consigned him. And he does it in such a chummy, cant-free style, while thoroughly answering one attack after another, that it’s like the lamplight from a cottage window on a foggy night. While this will always be contentious, he makes a strong case for the fallacy of blaming Marx’s thou ...more
Julian Worker
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I can't wait to read another book by Terry Eagleton as he is such an engaging writer. Some wonderful, amusing lines and quips as well as thought-provoking observations particularly about the victims of capitalism and the capitalist system.

Some quotations for you without giving the game away:

Successful revolutions are those which end up erasing all traces of themselves.

Most political states came about through revolution, invasion, occupation, usurpation, or extermination. Successful states are th
Maja Solar
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really appreciate the ability to write (on difficult issues) clearly and simply + to write a popular but not vulgar book!
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
As unfashionable as Marxism is these days, Terry Eagleton believes that the events of our time make a strong case for it. Why Marx Was Right is an argument on two fronts, one being that Karl Marx never advocated for much of what was attributed to him, and the other that what Karl Marx actually proposed is very appropriate for our age.

When I read the book, I was open to giving Marxism a fair hearing, as I wonder if the technological developments and "post-scarcity" world of our time call for a ne
It has long been my policy that every once in a while, I confront myself with a book that I am almost certain I will disagree with. It is my firm belief that every conviction should be challenged and the other side of the debate heard, and afterwards, if your convictions are unshaken, or - better yet - shaken but then erected on a more solid foundation, you can go back to being smug. Or, you must admit you were wrong all along. That can also happen. Just ask all these blogposts on the merits of ...more
Aug 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Why Marx Was Right by Terry Eagleton seems to me to be a good candidate for required reading for all high school students-as well as people my age looking for a good introduction to Marx. It doesn't hurt to be a little left of center but it's not a prereq. Well-written, well-reasoned, the book is a welcome introduction to an important figure by an excellent writer. Eagleton is not rabid on his subject and is able to see flaws in his subject. And while this book won't tell someone all they need t ...more
Donald Linnemeyer
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
The title grabbed me, and it was well-worth the read. Great writing, and surprisingly, not at all dogmatic or shrill. You didn't get an impassioned, furious defense of Marxism against our capitalist overlords. Instead, Eagleton simply talks you through how Marx himself is grossly misunderstood and misconstrued in most popular criticisms. And he doesn't place Marx above reproach; Eagleton is perfectly willing to disagree with him.

Interesting, readable, and balanced, at least for a book of this ti
Hunter McClure
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: leftism
I have qualms about certain parts of this book - as a staunch opponent of Mao and Stalin, as someone who thinks anyone trying to rehabilitate them is a dipshit and enemy of the working class, I still think Eagleton goes to far in describing them as mass murderers. There are also times where he will accept a critique of Marxism as valid without mounting a defense against it - at the end of the third chapter, he ponders that socialism could have been achieved had history happened differently, as i ...more
Paul Rhodes
Jul 03, 2011 is currently reading it
Nearly finished with it. Eagleton has a wonderfully impish wit. Quite delightful. Yes, I know that as a Catholic I cannot be a Marxist. Specifically, this means that I cannot accept the Marxist attempt to build a heaven on earth, but that does not prevent me from accepting the Marxian critique of capitalism. Chesterton did. Now I know that a person like Jeri would say that Chesterton did not know much about economics. To that I would say that a person like Jeri who thinks Bush der Zweite was a g ...more
Prithvi Shams
Apr 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is structured as a point by point refutation to some of the major criticisms of Karl Marx, such as apparent disappearance of "labor class" in Post-Industrial Technocrat society, supposed animus between Socialists and the State, Marx's views on revolution and violence, Marx's deterministic view of history and social change etc. This is a great read for the uninitiated , and I've personally found the arguments compelling. ...more
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
A refutation of the various criticisms of Marx's work. This is great for those who want to be able to highlight differences between Marx's theories and the negative ways the leaders of various communist countries act.

And easy read for such a difficult topic, written in an entertaining style.
Sam Brown
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-2020-in-books
so fucking good. funny, insightful, surprisingly readable. a book for normies and IntellectualsTM alike! absolutely required reading. should be the first book on philosophy/social science curriculums when dealing with the issue of marx and marxism. want to reread immediately!
The Lazy Reader
"Before we can think, we have to eat; and the word "eat" opens up the question of a whole mode of social production."

A touch too flowery at times, but extremely readable nonetheless. Eagleton is unique among scholars for his ability to be equally profound and funny('When the novelist Marcel Proust was still in the womb, his genteel mother was greatly distressed by the outbreak of the socialistic Paris Commune; and some speculate that this distress was the cause of Proust's lifelong asthma.')
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"I am out to present Marx's ideas not as perfect but as plausible. To demonstrate this, I take in this book ten of the most standard criticisms of Marx, in no particular order of importance, and try to refute them one by one."

I found these counterarguments mostly convincing and undeniably thought-provoking.
"Eh, Chris", you might wonder "wasn't Eagleton preaching to the choir though, sort of, in your case?"
Yes, but that wouldn't stop me from questioning his claims. I also wouldn't stubbornly re
Jun 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Was Marx right? I don't know, but Eagleton makes a good case for him being anything but discredited and irrelevant 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Eagleton's explication of Marx's voluminous writings reveals a complex and compelling thinker who bears little resemblance to the bloodless "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" caricature we learned about in high school.

I found "Why Marx Was Right" more edifying than enjoyable because it is patently d
Oct 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: nobody
Shelves: philosophy
Another flabby book with shallow and unconvincing arguments that attempts to show communism in better light. The only communism we know is the one which was represented in the history; there is no some kind of "misunderstood, not-yet-happened communism". Even if it could have happen differently, the true definition of communism is that it is the ideology of weaklings (Weaklings of the world, unite!)(Revenge of the nerds!). I will always be against that. The only reason why I gave 2 stars for thi ...more
The American Conservative
'In Why Marx Was Right, the British literary critic Terry Eagleton encourages [a] shift from Marx the satanic revolutionary to Marx the digital sage. As its title suggests, the book sets out to tell us not only what Marx would think, but also why he should be believed. Eagleton, who has also written recent essays on evil and atheism, is not very successful on either score. On a more subterranean level of argument, however, Why Marx Was Right is an acute, if partial, diagnosis of the bankruptcy o ...more
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent primer for reconsidering Marx in light of the 21st century.

It is extremely unfortunate that citizens of the global west hear the name Karl Marx and think only of the horrors committed by Stalin, et al.

This is akin to judging Christianity only based on the crusades, or on hate groups like Westboro Baptist.
Or perhaps using 9/11 as the only means for understanding Islam.

I.E. focusing on horrific historical distortions of concepts, rather than considering faithful engagements.

To qu
General Kutuzov
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book, sharing as I do much of my generation’s dissatisfaction with capitalism. But the silly, starry eyed naivete of Eagleton has had me pining for Chamber of Commerce lunches and free trade seminars.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the politics book club, we (with some minor election fraud from me) voted on reading Terry Eagleton's Why Marx Was Right, which I nominated because a handsome man on the internet said it was good, making this the second whole book that I have read because a handsome man on the internet told me to (it was the same handsome man, too: The Only YouTuber Whomst Reads).

Back when I was PEWG co-chair, I spent a lot of time looking at very introductory books to recommend to new members. Some of th
Dan Christensen
I was prepared for Marxism for a general audience, but it was actually rather more dense and "philosophical" than I was expecting. (I shouldn't have expected different, considering Marx is, you know, a philosopher and all.) This wasn't necessarily a drawback of course. However, as the book is structured as a series of criticisms of Marxism that he refutes one by one, I found he didn't make a particularly strong case for the initial criticisms. This would have allowed for me to put his rebuttals ...more
J.W. Horton
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
If you know someone who is resistant to Marxism, who has at hand all the well-worn and complacent arguments against it, give this person Eagleton's book. WHY MARX WAS RIGHT is well argued and clearly written. (In fact, I've been noticing about Eagleton that he has a writing style rather similar to that of C.S. Lewis.) This book is very illuminating both for those on the Left, but especially for those who are not.

Eagleton takes on in successive chapters each of the following arguments against Ma
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Widely regarded as England's most influential living literary critic & theorist, Dr Eagleton currently serves as Distinguished Prof. of English Literature at the Univ. of Lancaster & as Visiting Prof. at the Nat'l Univ. of Ireland, Galway. He was Thomas Warton Prof. of English Literature at the Univ. of Oxford ('92-01) & John Edward Taylor Prof. of English Literature at the Univ. of Manchester 'ti ...more

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